After the two highly successful Chris Taylor events in 2016 to Hartlepool and the following year by sponsoring the home game with Exeter City, ideas for what to do for the third event were already going through my mind during the summer months, and to come up with something so extreme, it would be remembered for many a year.
At the same time, it had to be on the same wavelength to fit in with all that is good about the memory of Chris.
I have done weekends/nights away with the Stags, to the high hilt, Torquay at least a dozen times, and we even ran a coach to Blackpool in 2003 for an Easter Monday game, which led to a riot in the hotel and the owner attempting to smack a local spice head, round the head with a pool cue, so at least I was verse at these sort of events.
Memories of writing this, also brought back having my eye poked with a lighted cigarette in Torquay on a random Tuesday night by a rugby player as i tried to have a dance off with his girlfriend.
Those that follow our work closely, will know a big £550 coach bill for damage suffered at the play off final with Huddersfield in Cardiff in 2004, meant I had pledged to never run a coach to a football match again.
That still haunts me to this day and brought about the abrupt end to the fanzine back in the day, but seeing as I had gone back on this promise for the Hartlepool trip, it meant I had free reign to do what I wanted this time around, and a quick look at the fixtures saw that Yeovil for the last away game of the season was very tempting indeed.
In order to get things moving quite quickly I started out in August getting the quote for the bus, I had planned on limiting numbers to 30 in the first instance, so got a couple of numbers of £1,200 estimates in from the likes of Johnson Bros. which seemed a little steep, maybe the driver would wank me off in the middle of the night, but I knew any cost would involve getting the driver a room for the night so I am guessing it wasn’t that bad.
All the original quotes were for 33 seaters, but as I started to advertise the event and push for a deposit from everyone, it was soon clear this number would exceed, and we are suddenly at 34 names without even trying with this.
It meant I had started to look for a bigger bus, whilst at the same time seeing which hotel in Yeovil would want to take 30 odd drunken football fans.
I did the first hotel reservation on booking.com, and it was for the mermaid hotel, but this was for only 33 people and as numbers were increasing, it meant I had to look for another hotel to take the overspill, so with the original booking in place, I took a couple of rooms at the nearby Preston Hotel, which was a 15 minute walk from the town centre, but also on the way to Huish Park.
This is when I had my first brainwave about the trip, what if the latter hotel could take us all, I mean genuinely book out the place and take it over, so a quick call confirmed they would take up to 40 people, done deal and deposit sent off to have the whole bloody hotel.
We were still in September at this point, but happy the hotel was secured, I turned back my attention to the bus, and started to get silly ideas about looking at those busses that took football players to games, so I rang the one with a lot of these on their fleet, Sharpe’s coaches, who quoted me £1,600 for an executive double decker. As the football season was still on, we had to take the next best thing.
A lot of number crunching followed, with me now needing at least 40 people to just break even, but numbers were still coming in, and by late October I had confirmed the coach and had 42 names in total who were going to come on the trip.
A couple of late drop outs disappointed me, as the additional revenue I was going to receive, would have paid the printing costs in full for the fanzine, but I put that out of my mind, as I constantly tried to tie up rooms and allocate people out, at the same time as trying to get us into a nightclub after the football.
This was probably the daftest idea, as we would have all been too vegged out after the game, to make the most of this.
Still, I made a booking at Chicago Rock for us all, but needed everyone to chuck a further fiver in, to make this pay.
The days leading up to the day were full of nerves, as I now had 38 people relying on me to make this work, would the bus turn up on time, was the hotel a red herring and not taken our booking in full, would everyone enjoy the day, could I relax… etc, all those were going through my head.
With the help of social media, everyone was well prepped for a 6:30 departure time from the Stags field of dreams, and even with Sandy Pate refusing to open up at five for breakfast, we were all in high spirits as the posh looking coach pulled into the car park.
To his great credit he did, and a few panda pops were handed about as people played cards and generally behaved on the way down, some tucking into the poor edition of the fanzine I had done in full colour again.
A pretty uneventful journey came to a head as we made the hotel in plenty of time for our exclusive use up to the game. Luckily I was still busy trying to get the driver parked, to notice that everyone had fucked off into the hotel so at least any confusion with room allocation was out of my control.
I made it into the hotel just as everyone had started to get pissed at the bar, and eventually made it to my room with Bez and our kid. Room 8 appeared to be a place of interest during the remainder of the day, although it certainly helped me out as I’d forgotten to pack my talcum powder for my shower and there appeared to be a excess lying around the triple room on the middle floor.
People we know came and joined us for the rest of day, and joined us on the coach as we made our way up to the ground.
I was that half cut as we made it into the car park, I hardly noticed having to pay £15 to get in, the stewards telling us that they didn’t know we were coming, well we were, and wanted to get in, so they had to make room for us to pass and into the little car park behind the away end.
Some heads were turned from the bingo bus brigade just simply because we had a nicer coach, those heads turned even more at the end of the game, as they saw about 50 of us now climb on, as we gave lifts to others.
Half of us did well to climb the first step of the terrace as the game got underway, although this proved more difficult for others, as they leant against the first barrier they came to, and just abused those around them!
With a play off push now all but dead, we were just there to enjoy the day, although the first half was anything but, as the Stags headed to half time 1-0 down, we were bored that much the stewards kindly offered us the chance to head to the home bar at half time, as long as we behaved and queued up 15 minutes before half time, so that we did.
It was a great gesture and the kind hearted steward leading the mob befriended us, and looked after us at half time, I was sort of talking to a fellow fat man in the bar who insisted he was the home chairman, but he bored me slightly so after propping up the bar for another 10 minutes and missing the start of the second half, we were made to go back to the away terrace.
Not before the Stags had equalized and the home side were awarded a penalty, this is where things got weird though, as afore mentioned steward then took us into the home end in the corner so we could watch the penalty, take note our pathetic stewards!!
After watching that, we marched back to the away end to see the Stags storm back and win 3-2, and us to head back onto the coach so we could catch a lift back to the hotel, with those further looks by those head turning bingo players.
We took some directions to the nearest pub, so we all had a ten minute walk, to be joined by said steward and plenty of drink before we were due to head to the pre-booked location with most of us unable to even get over the ring road bridge to the town centre.
Much of the rest of the night is a bit of a blur to be honest, I just know that the event was pulled off in spectacular style and everyone was enjoying themselves, even though the DJ refused my 90’s dance requests, wanker.
I’d lost the plot by the time we hit the hotel, some carried on into the wee small hours, keeping the driver awake all night I am guessing as he looked bleary eyed the next morning, either that, or he had found Room 8.
Further fruit shoots were brought after a decent breakfast, and we had planned to stop over in Gloucester at Pem’s new pub, the Sword Inn, so with the driver glad to see the back of us for a couple of hours, we headed up and boosted coffers for a wee while.
After that it was on to the coach and back home, reflecting on a great time, I still couldn’t relax as I needed to keep the coach tidy so I wouldn’t get bollocked by the coach company, so with my Cardiff experience in mind, tried to control the baying mob into behaving.
A great experience, but Jesus Christ, it was stressful from the moment of the idea right up until the coach pulled back into the car park and me assisted well in cleaning the bugger.
We’ll do it again no doubt, and I’ll try to relax a little more!